I’ve been thinking a lot about the term “woke” lately. You hear it from the conscious crowd all the time. #Staywoke hashtags are plentiful around the black twitter landscape. In terms resistance what does it truly mean? How can you know if you’re awake?
Being woke is not a destination. It is not something you arrive at and then the work is done. It’s a humble process of continuously challenging yourself to learn more, understand more, and love more.
Love is a big part of the process. I don’t mean a selective kind of love. I don’t mean the kind of love you have for people that come from where you come from, look like you, love the way you love, or reside in the same economic class. I’m talking about a love for humanity that extends beyond all barriers and all class conflicts. I love police officers. I love Republicans. I love racists. I don’t love many of the things they do, say, and believe, but I love them as people. Love is radical. Love is resistance. Love is what our oppressors fear most. What divides us is hate. What destroys global unity is hate. Hate never advances a just cause. Hate can never reside in the same space as progress. You’re not awake if you aren’t ready to love.
We all have had white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalist, and sometimes religious propaganda ingrained in us since birth. The cops that brutalize, the soldiers that kill, the teachers that treat minority children unfairly, the judges who give longer sentences to minority offenders, the governors and mayors that hide crimes against humanity (selling citizens poisoned water is indeed a crime against humanity for example) are victims as well. They’ve been raised by a system that teaches us to hate and teaches us to exploit, but even more it encourages it. When you are woke your job is to love these people. Sometimes that love means you have to stand up to them, challenge them, force them to see what they have been taught not to see.
You cannot be silent. What is the point of being woke, if you do not bring others along? It goes without saying that you will encounter resistance. Even still you have to stand in your truth and be unrelenting in your fight for justice. Silence is the enemy. We have to find our voices and demand our liberation. Frederick Douglass understood these basic truths. He said,
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. In the light of these ideas, Negroes will be hunted at the North and held and flogged at the South so long as they submit to those devilish outrages and make no resistance, either moral or physical. Men may not get all they pay for in this world, but they must certainly pay for all they get. If we ever get free from the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and if needs be, by our lives and the lives of others.
Being woke is an action not a state of mind. It’s the choices you make everyday, it’s the struggle both internal and external to be the change you want to see in the world, it’s the action of loving, and it’s reaching out and building unity and community where there used to be division and isolation. Being woke is understanding what the oppressive power structure takes from each of us, and demanding it all back.
So yes, brothers and sisters, stay woke.